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My Top 15 Games of 2019 (And 5 More I Need To Spend More Time With)

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  • Good works of fiction, no matter the medium, are the ones that can create an emotional response from a person. Fear, sadness, joy, anger, confusion, horror, anxiety, calmness, awe.


    Even when video games were nothing more than a handful of pixels moving on a CRT television, the end goal for the designer was almost always to evoke a feeling of triumph in the player. From Pong to PUBG, we play games to overcome their many challenges and walk away victorious - whatever form that victory may take. Maybe it's a high score, defeating your friends in a simulated sport, or surviving 99 other players in a fight to the death (or Tetris).

    In Outer Wilds, that triumph comes from the completion of a journey, and the beginning a new one.

    Outer Wilds gets in all those other emotions too, don't get me wrong. Fear, awe, and confusion from the vast unknown of the star system you're charged with exploring. The joy of your first spaceflight, of learning something new, and solving a complicated puzzle. The sadness and horror of learning the ultimate fate of your solar system and people. The anger of knowing there's nothing you can do to prevent it. The anxiety you experience as you once again are running out of time, and the strange calmness of watching your entire existence wiped out by the brute force of a supernova.

    Every piece of it serves the emotions it evokes. Watching one planet being slowly destroyed by the volcanic moon that orbits it, as large hunks of rock and long-abandoned settlements tumble into the black hole that is centered at the planet's core, you can't help but smirk at notion that soon this will be the fate of the entire system. When you find yourself floating alone in space without a ship, and all you can hear is your own breathing and the soft, muffled sounds of your spacesuit's jets as you try to maneuver yourself to some semblance of safety, you can't help but feel at peace. You'll come across myriad musings and correspondence of a long-dead civilization, who became both aware of their eventual fate and their futility to stop it. As the sun begins to expand and glow red with destructive intent, you hear the hum of a synth orchestra swell to a roar, only to fade as quickly came in, and you stare in near silence as the sun collapses on itself before exploding and engulfing you, your people, and your home in a brilliant, blue-white light - and then you wake up and have to see it happen again. And again. And again.

    Outer Wilds is what modern adventure games should be. This game is all about exploring space, solving puzzles, and unraveling a mystery. The story is captivating. The exploration and puzzles are fun and rewarding. I'm not sure any game has truly captured the sheer terror and loneliness of space quite like Outer Wilds. It got its hooks in me deep. I'm talking "dreaming about black holes, the fabric of spacetime, and the very nature of our existence" deep.

  • I suppose it can't be much of a surprise that a battle royale game that plays like a mash-up of Titanfall and Overwatch is also my favorite game in the battle royale genre. If it wasn't for my revelatory playthrough of Outer Wilds late in the year, Apex Legends would've been my game of the year without question.

  • I don't think it's hyperbolic to call Fallen Order the best Star Wars video game since Knights of the Old Republic. The Dark Souls style of gameplay and pacing works perfectly for a lightsaber-focused game, and using Metroidvania-inspired gating to the planets to encourage revisiting them to find upgrades and cosmetics was a stroke of genius.

    But one of my favorite things about this game isn't even the game itself, but the very clearly-defined difficulty slider that shows the user how changes the difficulty affects the parry timing. It's such a simple thing to include in a game like this to make it more accessible to more casual audiences, and it's something I wish other developers making this style of game would adopt.

  • The Outer Worlds wears it's Fallout inspirations on its sleeve, but it streamlines the formula to put it's focus on the content. That didn't work for some folks - some people wanted more exploration and emergent storytelling. But while I don't dislike that aspect of Bethesda's open world fare, I appreciated The Outer Worlds' approach.

    Not only was it a streamlined experience, but it kept an emphasis on my favorite thing about these types of games: talking my way out of nearly every situation. I still would love to go through as a "dumb" character and see just how much more trouble I get myself into when I have to solve every problem with gunfire.

  • 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is my favorite Call of Duty since... 2007's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The campaign is an absolute blast and serves as a reboot for the only story and characters I've ever really cared about in the Call of Duty series.

    The multiplayer is also a return to basics in a way I really love and appreciate. Not that I hated the wall-running or hero-based abilities, but that's not really want I come to Call of Duty for. I'm also excited for their forthcoming battle royale mode, although I'm still playing tons of Apex Legends and PUBG, and I'm not sure I have room for a third battle royale game in my rotation.

  • My Friend Pedro is one of those level-based games where I constantly replayed levels trying to do cool shit and get a perfect run. I never got tired of shooting dudes while doing a 360 walljump backflip. It's the closest thing we have to a John Wick action game (especially since the actual John Wick game we got was a bit of a letdown).

  • Link's Awakening is one of the few Legend of Zelda games I never played, so I'm very happy this remake came together the way it did. The classic LoZ gameplay is there in all it's glory, and the new art style is incredible. It's a shame the game still has framerate issues in some areas, but it didn't have a major impact on my enjoyment.

    Goombas and Chain Chomps in a Zelda game is still weird as hell, though.

  • Despite my first playthrough of Until Dawn being alone, my best memories of it are playing with friends and family. My first and only perfect playthrough of Until Dawn happened when I played the game with two friends in a marathon session one weekend. More recently, I played the game to completion with my wife - controller in my hand and all the decisions in hers - and getting to watch her reactions when the inevitable happened and bodies started piling up.

    Supermassive Games has leaned into that sense of co-op storytelling with Man of Medan, and while the story and characters were a little more engaging in Until Dawn, Man of Medan's co-op has is the clear victor in the fun factor department.

  • HONK

  • Man I wish I was better at this game. I absolutely love the music and style of Cadence of Hyrule, and I especially love the way it incorporates NecroDancer's trademark mechanics while still feeling like a true Zelda game. But I don't love getting killed by basic enemies because my Zelda instincts take over and I forget to move and attack on the beat. Still, that's a me problem, and when you get into rhythm during a big battle or boss fight, this game is super satisfying.

  • Afterparty is basically Superbad but in Hell, which if you know anything about me, you know that's right up my alley. In Afterparty, Hell is a 9-5 job for demons who see torture as more of a chore than a pleasure. After quitting time, demons and humans alike are free to hit up the bars and party. And demons fucking looove drinking games.

    Even if Afterparty stopped at "Outdrinking Satan to escape from Hell", it probably would've been a great experience for me. But Afterparty also deals with anxiety, impostor syndrome, and that general feeling of loss that comes with exiting high school, entering adulthood, and losing your friends in the process (hence the Superbad comparison).

    Afterparty may have been even higher on this list if a crash and resulting corrupted save hadn't forced me to watch the ending when I was less than 10 minutes from the end of the game.

  • If rampaging through the world as a giant, angry lab ape murdering gun-toting thugs and immoral scientists while jazz drums play in tune to your mayhem doesn't sound fun to you, I don't know what to tell you.

  • Admittedly I haven't finished this game, but it's already evoked multiple emotional responses from me. It's dark, and it's depressing, and it has a lot of deeply personal threads running through it that will guarantee a lot more anger and tears from me before it's all said and done.

  • While not nearly as good as "Papers, Please", Neo Cab gave me similar vibes. A story-driven game where you work in the service industry in a semi-dystopic place - the pieces are there. The overarching mystery was good, but the best parts of this game are the in-between parts where you pick up random passengers and get to known them and their stories.

    Come for the uprising against a tyrannical corporation, stay for the guy who leads a sadness-worshiping cult.

  • I didn't like Control nearly as much as a lot of folks did, but I still enjoyed my time with it. The story and aesthetic is way up my alley and throwing shit at enemies with my mind never got old, but I never really got used to the movement and it probably hampered my experience as a result. Despite that, I'm excited for the DLC and I'd like to go back and finish the side quests I left dangling at the end.

  • You'd think I'd have played the shit out of this game considering I'm a staunch lover of Shenmue and backed this game on Kickstarter day one, but alas it came out at a time where I was in the middle of playing a handful of other story-driven games and I just couldn't make time for it.

    What little I've played of it, I know I'm going to love it, warts and all.

  • I think I started this game two different times and managed to get pulled away by something else both times. I know enough about the gameplay and story to know that I will love it if I just sit down and play the damn thing.

  • A game where you essentially play a Geocities Cop is 100% my shit, and what little I've played of this had me in stitches. I really just need to sit down for an afternoon and give it some time.

  • I bought this game the Friday before Apex Legends came out. I never managed to get back to it after that. But it's good. Very good.

  • I'm actively playing this now, mostly on lunch breaks at work, and loving it. It's been a long time since I got invested in a Pokemon game, and this one probably deserves to be played in more than hour-long spurts while I'm eating.